Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/23/2003 10:00 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 147 "An Act relating to control of nuisance wild animals; and providing for an effective date." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. Co-Chair Wilken explained this bill sponsored by Co-Chair Green, "allows the Alaska Board of Game to issue permits or licenses to control nuisance wild birds or small animals." Co-Chair Green informed that residents sometimes incur nuisance "critters" on their property and are unable or unwilling to remove the animals themselves without assistance. She stated that current statute does not allow another party, other than certain State employees, to provide such assistance without obtaining a separate permit for each incidence. Co-Chair Green remarked that this legislation would create a professional license for parties interested in providing this assistance as a service. She noted the license holders would be apprised of pertinent laws and regulations and would be required to uphold those rules. Co-Chair Green opined this license would provide a "reasonable way for people to control nuisance critters and animals around their property." Senator Taylor referenced language in Section 2 on page 3 lines 3 - 5, which read as follows. …The commissioner also may issue without cost a permit for the noncommercial control of nuisance wild birds or nuisance wild small mammals… Senator Taylor indicated "small" is also contained in conforming language on page 3, line 21. He suggested deletion of "small" from the bill, unless it is a "technical definition of a classification of animals". He surmised that giving "a broader perspective or opportunity" for professionals to assist residents with nuisance animals would be preferred. Co-Chair Green deferred to the Department of Fish and Game to explain the definition of small mammals. Senator Bunde pointed out that current State statute and regulations refer to small and large game animals, and that the language in this legislation could be a reflection of existing definitions. He stated that currently Department of Fish and Game or other law enforcement officials handle incidences of aggressive moose. MATT ROBUS, Acting Director, Division of Wildlife Conversation, Department of Fish and Game stated the clarification of "small" mammals is to limit the scope of the commercial operators and individual permitees' activities. He exampled a moose entangled in a fence and the necessity that professional biologists or law enforcement personnel with past experience respond to the situation. He added that these situations "usually involve into a public safety issue" in which the Department currently has statutory jurisdiction. He noted this legislation would allow other nuisance animals to be addressed, such as river otter raiding domestic poultry. Mr. Robus recommended retaining the language limiting the provisions of this bill to small mammals and wild birds. Senator Taylor was unsure why this program would not be administered in the same fashion without the restriction to small animals. He suggested contracts could be entered into with private individuals to address situations with large animals and that it is not necessary that action should be limited to State employees. He spoke of road kill of moose and the distribution of meat harvested from these incidences. Mr. Robus noted that incidences with larger animals cause pubic safety issues and informed that the Department currently has authority and enters into contracts with private citizens to address these situations. He specified that the Department lacks authority to issue permits to address incidences involving birds and smaller mammals. He did not oppose inclusion of small and "medium" size animals. Senator Taylor reiterated the provision should be broad to allow for unexpected circumstances. Mr. Robus then testified in favor of the legislation, as it would provide the ability to address situations that could not be addressed in the past. He told of issues with migratory birds whereby the federal government has requested assistance with addressing nuisance birds, although the Department has been unable to issue permits to private parties. Mr. Robus informed that the bill contains two "pathways", one being a commercial license that would allow a private party to offer nuisance animal control services to the public. He noted the fee for this license would be $100 and that interest in providing this service has been expressed. He predicted the program would have a "slow start" and therefore incur minimal Department expense. The second pathway, he stated, would allow the Department to issue permits to private individuals to deal with individual nuisance animal situations. He noted this process would be similar to the Department's issuance of public safety permit and scientific educational permits. Mr. Robus stated the Department would apply the same case-by-case guidelines used to determine "defense of life and property" justifications in that non-lethal options would be considered before a permit would be issued to kill an animal. Mr. Robus expressed concern with transitioning this legislation to include all animals emphasizing that although all wildlife has value, larger game animals also provide meat and have a trophy value. Although bears, etc, could be a nuisance, he assured that other options are available for dealing with large problem animals safely and effectively. He was reluctant to place a commercial operator in the position of making safety determinations. He appreciated Senator Taylor's efforts to provide flexibility although the Department's intent is to address small nuisance animals. ROBERT DORAN testified via teleconference from Mat-Su that he has found that agencies do not have adequate time or personnel to address problems with small nuisance animals and the affected public is unable to take action for various reasons. He assured he did not intent to "step into the role of biologist" but rather offer a service to the public to address nuisance animals. Senator Bunde, referencing Senator Taylor's earlier comments, asked if the intent of this legislation is to cover large killed animals, as he understood a program already exists to remove and harvest meat from animals struck and killed by vehicles. Co-Chair Green asserted her intent is to address only living nuisance animals. Mr. Robus affirmed a system exists to address killed animals. Senator Taylor spoke of injured large animals and the inability to end suffering until "someone with a badge" arrives. He suggested private contractors could be available to address the matter of large injured animals. Co-Chair Wilken indicated Mr. Robus could respond to this query at a future hearing on this bill. Senator Olson requested an opportunity to offer Amendment #1. Co-Chair Wilken stated the amendment would be addressed later. Co-Chair Wilken ordered the bill HELD in Committee.